“I thought the run game, if you watch it play for play, we made a lot of good runs against a lot of tough looks.”
“When you look at our offensive line, we can be good at it, and we blocked a lot of things really well yesterday.”
Quotes like these from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh given to professional members of the media who serve as a conduit to the team for fans are rather insulting to both the media and the paying customers.
The rushing game DID NOT produce “a lot of good runs.”
If you take out Joe Flacco’s 3 scrambles for a total of 25 yards the Ravens ran it 18 times for 30 yards. Bernard Pierce had a long run of 7 and Ray Rice had one for 5. Do the math! On those 16 other runs the Ravens produced 18 yards!
Where are the good runs coach?
Now I get that Harbaugh could be putting on a public spin that is much different than the message being delivered in the locker room. After all, what value is there in publicly humiliating the team, players or coaches? That could make signing soon-to-be free agents like Arthur Jones, Daryl Smith and Eugene Monroe that much more difficult.
But what if this is Harbaugh’s message to his team?
Would that shock you?
After years of being a Cam Cameron apologist would you really be surprised to learn that Harbaugh is now defending another long-time friend in Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo?
Heading into the season it was very clear that the Ravens would need to rely on their offense a bit more at the start until the defense, littered with many new and unfamiliar faces and without quintessential leader Ray Lewis had a chance to gel.
On the heels of a Super Bowl Championship run carried by the offense, the potential was there.
But then Dennis Pitta fell to a hip injury. Suddenly the passing game came into question since Joe Flacco’s two go-to targets, Anquan Boldin and Pitta were no longer around.
Right then and there the Ravens should have slammed the brakes on Castillo’s zone blocking experiment.
Former Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie told The Sun’s Aaron Wilson in a phone interview after his trade to Miami that the offensive line was already pre-warned that it would take some time before the new scheme would pay dividends.
“Juan has been telling us since the offseason that by the eighth or ninth game, things would be where we wanted it to be and everybody would get adjusted. Well, we’re almost to that point in the season. So, hopefully it works out.”
As if there wasn’t enough pressure on the passing game given all the new and unfamiliar faces in game situations, a lack of a running game has made it even more challenging.
Averaging a league worst (and reportedly the worst since the NFL/AFL merger) 2.8 yards per carry, the Ravens prehistoric rushing game places undo pressure on the aerial attack with so many second and third and long situations, effectively limiting the team’s playbook.
It puts Joe Flacco in harm’s way and it keeps the defense on the field far too long. The Ravens have had more three-and-outs (30.1% of possessions) than every NFL team except the winless Jacksonville Jaguars. And this is with a team that fields a multi-Pro Bowl back; a promising second-year runner often compared to Arian Foster and a perennial All Pro fullback in Vonta Leach.
It’s a hot mess!
But is it too late?
Four of the Ravens five losses have been by a TOTAL of 14 points. One plus or minus play in any of those losses could have resulted in a win. So it stands to reason that the Ravens are four good plays removed from being 7-1 instead of 3-5.
It’s not too late to turn this around and it’s not too late for John Harbaugh to at least admit that philosophical changes in the team’s blocking scheme were no less than premature given the team’s situation. They can go back to the way it was and if Castillo is the coach that Harbaugh claims, then he can adapt.
Why force five starters to adapt, one of which is an inexperienced center who is supposed to be the unit’s quarterback?
The best coaches understand how to develop game plans around the talent they have in order to achieve the desired results. You NEVER force a system upon the talent.
When things aren’t going well you find solutions together.
They did it in 2012 and they can do it again.
It’s time to stop with the lip service Harbs and check the ego at the door.
The season and careers are on the line.